Case in point: A piece in The Tennessean today on the draft of a new report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The long and short of it is the Southeast, with its extensively agricultural economy and coastlines, will suffer as the climate shifts. Last year was the second-warmest on record. This year will likely be the hottest since we started keeping records. There's nothing groundbreaking here. We've heard this before. As climate-change stories go, it's relatively prosaic. What struck Pith the most was the token nay-saying from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a propaganda organ dedicated to global-warming skepticism. In a misguided attempt at fairness, The Tennessean (or The Chattanooga Times Free Press; it's a joint byline) quotes director of energy and global warming policy Myron Ebell: "A lot of the conclusions are highly speculative and debatable and some just go against what we know." He goes on, but does little more than jab feebly at the report.
Yet in the interest of fairness, would it not have been important to note CEI's list of donors? Try Exxon Mobil, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute, Arch Coal, and General Motors, to name a few. Clearly, these companies and organizations have an interest in seeding global-warming doubt. As a reader, Pith suggests it would be fair to know this about a source the paper quotes straight-faced. This isn't to suggest that journalists shouldn't strive to give ink to both sides, but if a source isn't credible, it's our responsibility to weed that source out instead of giving it a whiff of credibility because it satisfies the opposing-viewpoint obligation.
Update: Apparently the highest degree CEI's resident climate-change expert holds is a master's in economics. Again, it's unclear why he's trotted out in the story as some sort of authority, aside from the fact that he disagrees with the premise of the EPA's report.